Survey: Retail stores have 'expertise gap'

SALT LAKE CITY — Experticity has announced the findings of its first ever “Retail Buying Experience” survey, which uncovers a striking expertise gap among sales associates in five retail areas: health and nutrition, prestige beauty, outdoor, sporting goods and hunting or fishing.

"The Retail Buying Experience survey shows that consumers still fundamentally want helpful expertise from retail sales associates to guide buying decisions while many of today's retailers have opted for low-cost employees, forcing buyers to turn elsewhere for information," stated Tom Stockham, CEO of Experticity. "This research clearly shows that consumers are not happy having to do all the research themselves and crave retail to play a hands-on role with their buying decisions."

The study of 600 U.S. consumers shows that consumers value sales associate expertise above all else, but finds that consumers often find such expertise lacking. The "Retail Buying Experience" survey was sponsored by Experticity and conducted by ReRez Research in Dallas in September 2013. The consumers were surveyed in five areas: outdoor, sporting goods, hunting or fishing, health and nutrition and prestige beauty.

Consumers expect expertise from retailers in key areas

When asked to rate the services consumers most desire and value from retail sales associates, the top four were:

  • Product knowledge (73%);

  • Help selecting the correct product (71%);
Category knowledge (69%); and 

  • Help finding alternatives when the first choice is not available (68%).

The survey found that 2-out-of-5 consumers are routinely disappointed by the lack of expertise of the sales associates they encounter in retail stores. The biggest shortcoming is in finding suitable alternatives, cited by 43% of consumers. Category knowledge, product knowledge and help selecting products were skills also cited as lacking.
Consumers fall back to other sources for expertise

Given the value consumers place on expertise, it is not surprising that when they cannot find it at retail stores, they find it elsewhere. Consumers tell us the resource they find most useful in terms of obtaining expertise is talking to someone they perceive to be an expert (72% find this somewhat to extremely useful). This is followed by online searching (71%), online user reviews (66%) and traditional product reviews and articles (65%).

So what are the lessons for retailers? Making sure your sales associates have the proper expertise is good business. Experticity has the following recommendations:

  • Invest in the right people;
  • Train the people who love your stuff: So often retail employees get trained in things like how to improve service. That has a place, but if they don't know the products inside and out, they won't be able to provide the proper guidance;
  • Reward expertise: If your employees are in love with the stuff you sell and know everything about, then they probably want to be rewarded with your stuff — discounts merchandise, tickets to related events, etc.; and
  • Evangelize the value of helpful expertise: Leading people to the lowest price on your shelf doesn't build relationships. Ask customers what they want, why they want it.

Experticity is a community of influential experts who work to drive retail sales and create premier buying experiences through the knowledge platform, and the incentive platform,

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